Berndt Hamm

At rst sight the controversy about the Lord’s Supper was related to only one speci c theological problem: the interpretation of Christ’s and the question of the nature of Christ’s physical presence in the celebration of the . But in the course of the controversy it became ever more apparent how extensively the limits of the problem were bound up with the question of the Real Presence. Hence the dispute about the interpretation of a few bibli- cal sayings could open up and foster fundamental differences in many areas of , from ontology and the doctrine of God to Christol- ogy and pneumatology to biblical hermeneutics and ecclesiology. One of the truly radical considerations which was given impetus by the dispute about the Lord’s Supper—and subsequently revealed totally different conceptions within the reforming camp—was the question of the conditions and limits of fellowship within the Church: whom can one recognize and countenance as a brother in Christ (there is never speci c mention of sisters when this question is considered)? How much disagreement over biblical interpretation and questions of doctrine can the unity of the church tolerate? And at what point does the insupport- able heresy which leads to exclusion from the community arise? Martin Bucer faced these questions with increased urgency because of the disappointing outcome of the Colloquy. Towards the end of the meeting, on the afternoon of October third 1529, Martin had explained to him that, because of the difference in the understand- ing of the Eucharist, his conscience would not allow him to recognize the Upper Germans and Swiss as brothers in Christ.1 In Bucer’s view this denial of Christian fellowship by the faction from Wittenberg created a gulf which was far wider even than that occasioned by the

1 Cf. Bucer’s reminiscence in his Widmungsschreiben (v. n. 9), 51, 23–27; Cf. also BCor III, 333, 3–25 (Bucer to ), BDS IV, 350, 23–25; 353, 15–23; 355, 10–18 (Reports on the by Kaspar Hedio, and ). Abbreviations: BCor = Martin Bucer: Briefwechsel/Correspondance; BDS = Martin Bucers Deutsche Schriften. 270 berndt hamm problem of the Eucharist; for as he saw it what was now at stake was the fundamental ecclesiastical unity with the people from Wittenberg. For him it was not the question of the physical presence of Christ but the question of the weight-bearing capacity of Christian communio which was the real, truly fundamental controversy that threatened to destroy the solidarity of those of the Protestant conviction.2 Consequently, in the months after Marburg Bucer devoted himself energetically to this problem. He was already familiar with the topic. In the early years of the con ict about the Eucharist before the Marburg Colloquy—which were also the years when the clash with the Anabaptists began—Bucer, following Erasmian ideas and in common with his Upper Rhine and Swiss Humanist and Reforming friends Zwingli, Oecolampadius and Capito, had developed views on the central signi cance of the Christian principles of paci sm and love, friendship and brotherhood.3 Here spe- cial emphasis was laid upon the basic position of tolerance, i.e. on the ability within the Christian community, and with the biblical Word as the basis for agreement, to permit divergent opinions, endure brotherly admonition and in this way achieve unity in the diversity of doctrine and belief.4 Hence the outlines of Bucer’s theology of tolerance were already clearly developed before 1529/30.5 Bucer overcame the shocking experience of Marburg—the experience of a kind of excommunication which was made even more bitter and

2 This relativizing—indeed trivializing—of the actual controversy about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is in Bucer and Capito from the very beginning not simply tactics and strategy (as Kaufmann would have us believe) but is primarily the result of a theological position: when the Eucharist is spiritualized and internal- ized the signi cance of the external signs and the text of the Words of Institution is diminished; all the emphasis now falls on the trusting recollection of Christ’s redeeming act and the eucharistic gift of brotherly love bestowed therein by the Holy Spirit. The fellowship of those who believe and love becomes the main content of the Eucharist to such a degree that by comparison the divergence in the understanding of the Words of Institution can be described as a quarrel about something insigni cant, a misunder- standing and an unnecessary squabble over words (cf. BCor IV, Nr. 314, 320, 324, 326, 328, 329, 338, 339). The true criteria of the proper understanding of the Eucharist are then the fruits of love and patient brotherly treatment of those who hold another interpretation of the eucharistic words. Cf. Thomas Kaufmann: Die Abendmahlstheologie der Straßburger Reformatoren bis 1528, Tübingen 1992 (BHTh 81). 3 Cf. Friedhelm Krüger: Bucer und . Eine Untersuchung zum Ein uss des Erasmus auf die Theologie Martin Bucers (bis zum Evangelien—Kommentar von 1530), Wiesbaden 1970 (VIEG 57); Gottfried Bender: Die Irenik Martin Bucers in ihren Anfängen (1523–1528), Hildesheim 1975 (Studia Irenica 5). 4 Cf. Bender: ibid., 25–35, “Die Sodalitas Christiana der oberrheinisch-schweizeri- schen Reformatoren.” 5 Cf. e.g. Bucer’s remarks at the Bern in 1528: BDS IV, 82,8–83,18.